Levenson speaks, some more

We published in Thursday’s print editions the highlights of my interview with Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson, but there is more to share, and I’d like to share it here.

For example, we published Levenson’s comments about trying to do right by season ticket holders by not having other adults sitting in equal or better seats at discounted prices. On the other hand, the Thrashers are going to continue discounting: They just plan to target those discounts as much as possible in ways that don’t offend their most loyal customers.

“Every team does discounting to try to build a fan base. Here we don’t have the fan base that Detroit has or Toronto has so we had to be more aggressive about that, but I’ve heard extensively from our season ticket holders, and I think there’s a right way to do that and a wrong way to do that. I think we’ve made some mistakes in our aggressive desire to bring more fans into the building. I think we’ve corrected that.”

On his role in some of the more controversial deals aimed at getting the Thrashers their one playoff deal, I asked: Does that mean that when you look at general manager Don Waddell, you don’t say, “Hey, Don, why did you do this?”

“Absolutely. We did it together, with a pretty good push from ownership. Those were all collaborative efforts.”
How do you rate how he has done evaluating talent and drafting and trading?

“I’m really excited about where we are right now. We’ve got 10 players right now who came up through our system. I think we’ve had 15 over the course of the year. … I’m really excited about what our future looks like. [Bryan Little] has had really his first full season; it’s a breakout season. Zach [Bogosian] is the oldest 18-year-old I’ve ever met both in his physical on-ice presence and his off-ice maturity. Boris [Valabik] gives us something we really need back there. It’s a neat young team. Toby [Enstrom] is an extraordinary young talent. [Do you remember the Washington Capitals when the Thrashers beat them 5-1 on Nov. 21, 2007?] That team at that time was loaded with a bunch of young, exciting players who have done nothing but get better and better. They built around a superstar. I think our team has the ability to do the same thing very quickly. You look at Washington. You look at Boston. Those are teams that turned themselves around very quickly, and I am extremely optimistic about our ability to do that.”

What kind of hockey team do you want the Thrashers to be? Do you want it to be a 2-0 team or the kind of team it was trying to be at the start of the year, when it was a little more open?

“I want them to win. That’s what I want. It’s the coaching staff’s job and the GM’s job to match the talent to the style of play. That’s another interesting mistake we may have made in the early days. Coming out of the lockout the rules were changed. It was going to be faster. It was going to be higher scoring. My thing was, let’s be the fastest highest-scoring team. It sounded good on paper. That’s not necessarily the right recipe for success.”

The franchise has been to the playoffs once but hasn’t won a playoff game. What do you tell fans who want to believe but are giving up hope?

“The on-ice performance will have to speak for itself. This year has been extremely painful for me. We have been committed from Day One to building a winner here. We have understood from Day One that in order to have sustained success here we’ve got to build a winner. It’s easier said than done. It’s not going to deter us from continuing to try. We don’t have any choice. That’s what we have to do.”

How confident are you about winning the suit you have in Maryland?

“I’m not going to talk about the court case.”
With the amount of money that documents in the suit say you have been putting in each year, it doesn’t seem to be a sustainable model. Does there come a time when you’d have to sell or the team would have to move?

“Our objective from the beginning has been to turn these two franchises [the Hawks and Thrashers] around. I think initially we were making great progress with regard to the Thrashers. Ticket receipts began to turn around. Attendance began to turn around. We took a step back in the last year. On the Hawks’ side, we’ve had significant growth in ticket revenues this year. No coincidence, the team’s better. I think we understand what needs to be done.”

As the owner of a very scarce commodity, don’t you have people making inquiries about whether you’d be willing to sell it?

“With the publicity around the ownership dispute we’ve had people, including people who have come up to me at the arena, some of our best fans, who have talked to us about becoming investors with us. Those are things that until recently we really haven’t pursued. … As we wind down toward the end of the ownership dispute, those are things we’re looking at now.”

Steve Belkin has 30 percent ownership. Would you be looking for a group to come in at that level?

“Possibly. That would be an easy way to go about this.”

59 comments Add your comment

mknobler

March 12th, 2009
9:32 pm

On another subject, Todd White’s first-period assist tonight gives him 60 points, tying him for his career-best season. White’s success this season has been overshadowed by the play of Kovalchuk (lately) and Little (early) and Peverley (since he was picked up) and Lehtonen (recently). But it has been a very good season for him offensively.

Michael Shapiro

March 12th, 2009
9:47 pm

Knobs

Any word on Kovy who left the ice after his second shift?

Jason

March 12th, 2009
10:27 pm

Nice work on the interview Mike! Do you feel like Levenson answered everything you wanted, or was there anything left on the table to press him on again? I wonder if it would be worth it to try and get a interview with Belkin at this point? He’s not a participating owner, so not sure what his thoughts on the Thrashers and Waddell might be. I only bring this up because as crazy as this lawsuit has gone, there’s still a slight chance Belkin could eventually win.

Hope Kovy’s ok…..

LAC

March 12th, 2009
10:31 pm

It appeared to be a lower back issue. Like those we older guys get picking up the paper… and for a couple weeks we walk like trees.

The LESS Mr.POTTY MOUTH speaks the better we ALL are. Just a DISGUSTING human being who knows nothing about running a winning business !

Brendan

March 12th, 2009
10:41 pm

Excellent news on Todd White’s production. It is easy to forget about the type of season he’s had.

On the Levensen subject, I just have to ask. And, I don’t know if it ever got this detailed, but do you get the sense, Mike Knobler, that (1) Levensen SPECIFICALLY ASKED for Zhitnik in that Coburn deal? Or, do you think … (2) that Bruce and the other owners came to DWad, and basically said, “Don, identify a D-man for us to get, to help immediately, to make sure we make the playoffs” and then Waddell INDEPENDENTLY selected Zhitnik. And thennnn the ownership “greenlighted” the trade.

It’s an important distinction, for me, as a fan, to know. Iffff it’s even possible to know. I want to be CLEAR about something. If Bruce Levensen, or the other owners, as a collective group, gave Don Waddell specific marching orders, “Get me Zhitnik! I don’t CARE how you do it!,” then Waddell is largely absolved from that deal. Why? Waddell is the employee. The AS, LLC is the employer. If the boss says, “Buy 50 computers for the office, make sure they’re Pentium IV’s,” then those are your orders. There wasn’t too much “wiggle room.” Perhaps, a better price could have been negotiated. But the point is, you better have 50 Pentium IV computers in the office soon, or the boss will be peeved.

If Waddell is the one who pitched Zhitnik … and had to CONVINCE the owners that Zhitnik was the right fit, then those who want to criticize Waddell’s judgement have some leeway to do just that. Yes, even in the face of “pressure” to FORCE a trade like that. In that instance, Waddell is the one who CHOSE Zhitnik.

Just to be ridiculous for a moment, what if Waddell had selected Chris Pronger, and asked for permission to make that deal? What if the AS, LLC, selected Chris Pronger, and told DW to MAKE IT HAPPEN, even if the cost were FIVE 1st round picks and three (3) third rounders? Isn’t there a line of demarcation for these “collaborative” efforts? What I’m saying is … isn’t there an “ultimate” voice that has the final say on decision-making?

Doesn’t Waddell, at some point, have to say, “Look, we can’t land Pronger from Anaheim, in 2007. Not for ANY price. Pronger is the difference between winning the Cup and not winning it, for Anaheim.” Likewise, doesn’t the ownership group have to step in and say, “Don, obviously we’d all like a player of Pronger’s caliber, but we’re not coughing up 8 draft picks to have this player. Even if he’s signed through 2010.”

Someone came up with the idea for Zhitnik. SOMEONE did. Who was it? Was it Bruce? Was it Ed Pescowitz? Was it Beau Turner? Was it Michael Gearon? Was it Rutherford Seydel? Or was it, Don Waddell? It’s important to know who’s driving the decision-making. It’s really easy to say, “We did this as a collaborative effort.” Efforts don’t get done collaboratively. Someone “pitches an idea,” then others AGREE or DISAGREE. If Don Waddell didn’t have any ’say-so’ in that Zhitnik deal, I think it’s important to let the hockey community of Atlanta know that.

mknobler

March 12th, 2009
11:06 pm

Brendan, that’s a great question about the level of the owners’ involvement, and my guess would be Levenson, as big a hockey fan as he is, probably wouldn’t have said, “Get me so-and-so.” But he definitely would have said, “Make something happen so we win now.” There’s a lot of room between those extremes, and I didn’t ask enough questions to know where on that spectrum the situation was.

Michael Shapiro, I am not at the game tonight. We did not staff the Colorado game or tonight’s game. I will miss two more. That’s not ideal, but it still leaves us ahead of the way the LA Times covers the Kings and the Ducks and the New York Times covers the Rangers (let alone the Devils and Islanders).

Jason, thanks. Levenson answered questions for as long as I asked. There were a couple of topics on which he demurred. As quoted above, one of them was the court case. Others involved specifics about NHL operations (TV, rules changes, etc.). I covered the main issues as I saw them, though as Brendan’s example points out there are a couple of places I wish I’d pressed for more specificity.

Michael Shapiro

March 12th, 2009
11:10 pm

Nice finish by “Harry” Reasoner….what a way to return to Edmonton where he played for what?? 6 years??

Worried about Kovy but nice grit by the team tonight. Bogo continues to impress. Wish I felt the same about Boris, but there are times when I think he takes foolish penalties.

Still, 4 in a row and without Cap’n Kovy. Nice win in OT.

Jared

March 12th, 2009
11:14 pm

MARTY THE PARTY!!!!!! WOOOOO!!!!!!

Jason

March 12th, 2009
11:18 pm

Mike-Maybe you can speak with him again at the end of the season next month. You might consider asking him some of the same questions spun differently and see if the responses are online with what you expect.

Wow! What a gutty win for the team. A solid road victory against a playoff hopeful opponent in a tough enviroment. How fitting Reasoner get the game winner.

Brendan

March 12th, 2009
11:20 pm

I appreciate the response, Mike Knobler. I thought your interview with Levensen was very good. There’s only so much he’d be willing to divulge, anyway.

Though, if I evvvvv-ver got the chance to interview Levensen, I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to show him a picture of Devin Setoguchi, and to ask him if he knows who he is … and that Atlanta passed on him with the 8th overall pick, in 2005. I know. I should really let that go. Duly noted. :)

Brendan

March 12th, 2009
11:29 pm

Tonight, Thrashers outshot the Oilers and won 11 more faceoffs. They did that … at REXHALL PLACE. Color me, “impressed.” Youth movement. Why … didn’t … Don Waddell … try this … right from 1999? Why did we need to have Tjarnqvists, Tamers, Kallios, Hrkacs, Rheaumes, Aubins, Petrovickys, Vigiers, Burts, Krupps, Karlssons, Domenichellis, Hartigans, Garpenlovs, Smehliks, Tremblays, Modrys, Suttons, etc.

It can’t ALLL be pinned on Damian Rhodes.

stendec

March 12th, 2009
11:38 pm

Who are these guys? Another road victory? In overtime? With Moose between the pipes? A come-from-behind effort? I am impressed! Where HAVE these guys been all season? Nice job fellows. Congratulations! Hope Captain Ilya Kovalchuk is just dinged. He has only regained his scoring touch in recent games. If I am dreaming please do not wake me up. This winning streak is just too blasted much fun. Keep it up!

Alan

March 13th, 2009
1:05 am

MacT once referred to Marty Reasoner as “Joe Sakic without offensive skills.”

I’d like to know how that crow he’s eating right now tastes.

Dwayne Johnson

March 13th, 2009
5:50 am

tastes like chicken

Toby

March 13th, 2009
7:10 am

A good draft….a #1 center (White or Pevs can be #2) and a vet D and we are playoff bound next year. Resign Kovy, Marty, Lehts, and Army and the STH’s will return too.

I think the ownership talking makes up tons of ground, too. We all know they have made a TON of mistakes, but I think going public and admitting them and taking a different approach to making the team a winner goes a real long way.

Hockeyfan

March 13th, 2009
7:34 am

You should have asked Levenson if he has learned how to talk to season ticket holders better. Has he told Seydell to never bring his kids and their friends into the locker room before a game?

PUTTING ON THE FOIL

March 13th, 2009
7:43 am

Is that really you Stendec? Agree, this has been too much fun watching this hockey team lately. The guys are playing hard, fast and as a team. I really do hope they will make the moves to keep Kovy and other key players and that this is not a mirage. I have a dream that one day we shall no longer live in a world where we have to shout “fire Waddell”.

Sara

March 13th, 2009
8:08 am

Brendan exactly how does one pull off a youth movement in the first year of a franchise? One entry draft under the belt, one expansion draft (where teams aren’t generally leaving young players unprotected), and one trip through FA (because a brand new expansion team in the South is soooo appealing to in-their-prime top-tier talent) – and of course the young players are all still RFAs at that point. It takes time to accumulate young players from drafting – no team gets even 4 or 5 usable players from every draft class. This is a big part of the problem I see with the ranting that goes on on these and other blogs. People have some very unrealistic expectations for how a team even can be built. If you look to other expansion teams like Nashville, it looks very much the same. Poile was a bit more aggressive in bringing in a higher calibre player (read: mid-level talent) earlier than Waddell but he and the Preds paid a price for that in terms of their draft position. How many game-changers like Heatley or Kovy have you ever seen on that roster?? There is something to be said for that.

Free agents aren’t coming to an expansion team – not the really good ones. They want to win. You might could overpay to get them anyway but a) that would be stupid to throw away money for a team that is going to lose anyway because you lack a supporting cast around your one spiffy FA signing and b) AOL/TW was even tighter with the checkbook than AS ever dreamed of being.

You can’t make trades for good players because you have nothing of value to trade with. All you’ve got are the left-overs from other teams’ rosters in the expansion draft, the few FAs you’ve been able to entice (cause no one else likely wanted them), and your first set of draft picks and future draft picks – which would be franchise-suicide to trade away.

And all the while some people continue to nit-pick the 1999-2003 roster, they are missing the fact that we’ve got a pretty impressive group out there at the moment. Bogosian is INCREDIBLE, as is Little, and Enstrom, and Oystrick. Valabik – work in process but as we learned from Coburn, one shouldn’t give up too quickly. Peverley has been a great pick up. Last night during the post-game, Marty Reasoner was using words like “we” and “future”…pretty good indication of where he stands. Fancy that – a potential UFA who *wants* to stay in Atlanta. Kovy is happy. And in the last year Waddell hasn’t made one clunker of a deal. Sure Crusher and Williams didn’t work out, and we’ve got some youth influx that time will tell on, but overall things have gone well over the course of a year. We removed the pieces that weren’t fitting. We’ve had a good draft group last season. We’ve made our star forward happier. The team isn’t already on the golf-course mentally like last year – that is huge. They are committed and focused and I couldn’t be prouder of them. And in truly “hell just froze over” fashion – stendec hasn’t had a pissy post in over a week. ;P

Now while I’m not willing to give Levenson or the others a complete pass until I see walk to match the talk, you guys have an entire year’s worth of work out of Waddell in recent history to evaluate and it’s been more good than bad. And since it doesn’t sound as if he’s going anywhere in the immediate future, you might as well just take a wait-and-see approach to the next off-season and regular season. Who knows – hell could continue to freeze and you might actually *like* the team that’s on the ice next October. :)

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 13th, 2009
9:03 am

“I know. I should really let that go.” Really man, you should. Did you know of Setoguchi prior to his successes in San Jose? Hindsight in drafts is easy, you know this.

As for the Levenson question, I feel you need to let that go too. Waddell found an available player (a important distinction) that fit the role they were trying to fill. It was a fine acquisition…he simply gave too much in return. Zhitnik proved his worth during that playoff race, and then flopped in 2008 like a Briere being looked at strangely. True, I would’ve been happier had an offensive player like Lubomir Visnovsky was acquired instead of Zhitnik, but for all we know Waddell inquired and was told it was either too expensive (multiple prospects, important roster players, or first round picks), or that someone of Visnovsky’s caliber wasn’t available.

If you remember 2007 rumors, it was said that Atlanta was pursuing Eric Brewer, who got re-signed by St. Louis to a multi-year contract that February (trade deadline time). Perhaps Waddell truly was going after Brewer, and when rebuffed fell back to Zhitnik. Visnovsky, by the way, was re-signed for 5 years that July, before being dealt to Edmonton for Stoll and Greene.

It’s easy to say “Waddell picked Zhitnik”, but clearly there is a lot more going on than him sitting back and saying “GIVE ME ALEXEI” and getting the greenlight from ownership to trade Coburn. I think you’re trying to make that one situation way too black and white.

jake

March 13th, 2009
9:08 am

Mike, thanks for the interview with Levenson. I’m impressed by his answers. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and that the Thrashers are not the unwanted orphans they’ve seemed — at least with him. I’m not convinced the Atlanta owners have a clue, or even care. But as long as he’s involved, there’s hope for the Thrashers. And he made a great point about Washington and Boston starting with a nucleus of good young players, and turning things around quickly. The analogy pertains here. Suddenly, having shed some older, stodgier veterans, the Thrashers are an exciting team to watch, and they’re winning.

It looks like they finally get what Coach Anderson wants them to do, and they’re playing hard and having fun. Bogosian looks like the real thing, and I’m really impressed with Eric Perrin’s maturity: looks like he put his disappointment about the past behind him and is playing hard and smart. And he made a brilliant pass last night to set up Reasoner for the winner.

I watched the first three OTs of the Syracuse-UConn Big East game last night, but it was the Thrashers win in Edmonton that made my day.

h

March 13th, 2009
9:24 am

Ranallo, totally agree on Zhitnik, 100%. Today is the most positive I have felt since just prior to playoffs in 2007. 2007 Playoffs through all of 2008 was a real mess. The enthusiasm on these posts and on other sites over the last 2-3 weeks says it all….We are starving to see good hockey and see this team win. I really hope DW makes at least one really good summer pick up and then signs Kovy to an extension. That alone will further motivate the true fan base. Then of course you have to come out in October and win some games. I hope we keep winning down the stretch, as it has to gives our players some real excitement, and I’ll just keep rooting for Phoenix, Colorado and Ottawa to win some games too so we stay in top 5 for picks. Cheers!

Nikita

March 13th, 2009
9:40 am

Agreed on the letting go. But I think that in general — it’s easy to second guess when you have hindsight and can pretend that anyone is available. When Waddell had to acquire someone, probably didn’t have a shot at some of the opnes he’d like, and made the best decision at that moment for the team at that moment. Zhit was a bad long-term acquisition, but in the short term it was an advantageous trade and that’s even considering that it wasn’t the preferred trade. Anyway, bygones. Or anyway, I don’t tend to dwell on stuff like that, so I wish others wouldn’t and we could discuss more hockey and less who’s still offended by Levenson’s language choices a year ago.

Let me say this about the owners, as someone who deals with some of them fairly regularly: their interest is variable, and so is their knowledge. Seydel is the most personally invested in hockey in general, but he’s not that invested or knowledgeable about the NHL and he’s got other stuff going on (mainly with regard to his kids). Levenson is savvier with money and regarding professional sports franchises, and he personally enjoys hockey. Some of the others also enjoy hockey. Some enjoy basketball, and some don’t care — they simply own a portion of the team because that’s what people in their position do as an investment.

I’m loving the team right now. Last night’s game was good hockey, and while I like seeing a shutout as with the Avs I also like seeing a close-to-equal contest. That’s what we got last night — I seriously expected Edmonton to get the two points until Perrin did his flip. Plus, beating the Avs is like beating the Islanders, or beating up handicapped three year-olds.

Jarndyce

March 13th, 2009
10:35 am

All year long you guys have heard me complaining about needing a first line RW. Top goal-scoring RW in the league today:

1) 34g Marian Hossa
2) 30g Jerome Iginla
3) 29g Bryan Little

WHAT?!?

Spud Webb

March 13th, 2009
11:08 am

Good interview Knobs. Levenson and the rest of them are still losers, liars and jerks!

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 13th, 2009
11:25 am

Knobler — Do you think it’s at all likely we could see Sterling in Atlanta pending Kovalchuk’s evaluation? If he is called up now, would he be allowed to play in the AHL playoffs since he was on their active roster prior to the trade deadline?

Personally I think it’s the perfect opportunity to rest Kovalchuk (no sense in letting him play hurt) and give Sterling a chance on a top 2 line in Atlanta. In his short stints in Atlanta, Sterling has been given 3rd and 4th line minutes, or off wing time with Kovalchuk’s makeshift line. He performed well with Haydar and Little last season, so we know he can keep up with linemates at this level. It’s about time he gets a chance to show his ability at this level in a scoring line role, and I think now’s the time if Kovalchuk is even 90% due to this injury.

If Kovalchuk were to be out for a few games, I would like to see Sterling slid right into his place on the first line.

MB

March 13th, 2009
12:13 pm

Along the same lines, Jarndyce, if I had written that Todd White…yes, THAT Todd White…would have more points at this point in the season than Henrik Sedin, Anze Kopitar, Jason Spezza, Jonathan Toews, Scott Gomez, and Phil Kessel, they’d have sent the padded wagon to my house.

Granted he’s played a few more games, but still…

Russian

March 13th, 2009
12:17 pm

**to Ranallo**
No way. Sterling is not going to play here. He got his chanse very many times. He is not 1-st or 2-d forward. Sorry, but it is true. If Kovy will rest 2-3 games I like to see line combination:
1. White Russian – Slava – White – Little. They knew each other and played well before.
2. Armi – Pever – Lavell or Crabb
3. Perrin – Reazoner – Stuart (or put Stuart in 2-d line and Crabb or Lavell in 3-d)
4. Bolt – Jimmy – Thronburn
This combination might works. :-)

MB

March 13th, 2009
12:30 pm

In addition, we’ve already surpassed last year’s goal and point totals for defensemen, which is nice to see and a trend that is likely to continue with the further development of the young guys.

Brendan

March 13th, 2009
12:48 pm

Sara, I’m talking about a philosophy/strategy, coming out of the gate, in 1999. CLEARLY, the “youth movement” wasn’t the Waddell Administration strategy, starting from 1999. Oh, certainly they used those lottery drafts to make selections, rather than to trade them (Heatley, Stefan, Kovy, Lethonen) for proven commodities. No FIRST YEAR Expansion team can be filled with 19-25 year olds, obviously. They’d only have one draft in their history, and they’d have to find nothing but “starting lineup” players in each of those rounds, to make something like that happen. It doesn’t work that way.

But as the years progressed, Sara, Atlanta became one of the OLDEST, if not thee OLDEST, teams in the NHL. It’s not because there was a “youth movement afoot.” If ya follow. Those early drafts, 1999-2003, didn’t stock the shelves with depth that made it to the roster. Waddell turned to experienced players, and AHL ‘Tweeners, to fill out the roster. And that was HIS DECISION. He was the GM. Obviously, there was a limited budget. But how much do 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th round draft picks cost to sign, anyway? Gotta be close to the league minimum. The picks just weren’t there. The Youth movement never happened.

Ranallo, you know how I am about drafts. (Yes, you DO! We’ve been down this road 10,000 times.) Conceptually, I’m not moving down if I own a Top 10 pick. I’m taking my player … and hoping like HECK I’m right about it, but knowing full well … that I might have just screwed up, BIG-TIME. (Think me taking Ryan Suter at 8th overall, had Nashville selected either Braydon Coburn or Dion Phaneuf at 6th overall. Or wherever they drafted AHEAD of Atlanta.) It’s a “risk.” But philosophically, I take that risk. That’s just meeee. It’s who I am. I’m “wired” that way. I don’t APOLOGIZE about it. Would I have taken Setoguchi? Hmmn, maybe not. But I would have taken SOMEONE at 8th overall. And was it Bruce Levensen who INSTRUCTED Waddell NOT to pick at 8th overall? Was that an OWNERSHIP Decision??? Or was that a Waddell-decision? SOMEONE made that decision. Atlanta DID … NOT … PICK at 8th overall. San Jose did, having made a trade with Atlanta.

Interestingly, there’s someone INFINITELY more qualified than I am, with an UNDENIABLE proven track record of success, who made a very interesting comment at the 2006 draft. I saw it on the NHL Network’s coverage of the St. Louis Blues Draft Day efforts that year. I am speaking of Red Wings GM, Ken Holland. Holland said, (and this supports the Don Waddell decision to move back in the 2005 draft, by passing on Setoguch, Staal, Kopitar, etc.), “Imagine if you owned the 1st overall pick? If you just kept moving backward, you could get 14-15 picks in the 2nd round.” And Holland wasn’t joking, either. What Ken Holland was advancing was the concept of stock piling most of the 2nd round of the draft.

See, I wouldn’t do that. Maybe that makes me AN IDIOT. But at 1st overall, I take the Stamkos, Ovechkin, Crosby, Daigle, Stefan, Thornton, Kovalchuk, Philips of the world. For meeee, personally, the prospect of drafting an elite, marquee player, whom I’d control for years and years … overrides everything else. Those types of players simply don’t grow on trees. It’s a “risk.” I’d take the risk.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 13th, 2009
1:53 pm

Brendan — I understand your philosophy, but I think it depends on the draft. I am not an advocate for stocking up on second round picks, but I am an advocate for hiring talented people into the advisory roles that would ADVISE me to make such a decision. If my scouting department informed me “Setoguchi is marginally better than Bourret, who is on everyone’s board as a mid-first rounder”, I would have to trust their advice and make a decision based on it. They scout the games, they see him play, and they’re paid to advise me as such. So yeah, I can fault Waddell for trading down, but I fault him more for trusting his scouting department year after year, when there isn’t much evidence that shows off their ability.

Thrashers27

March 13th, 2009
2:22 pm

I agree Ranallo…I’d like to see Sterling pulled up again. He has struggled in the past, but maybe an extended stay with Anderson at the helm would be just what the dr ordered for him. I say give him an extended chance at the end of this season and if he doesn’t show any promise dump in the off season. Any way you slice it, let Kovy rest for the remainder fo the season and bring in some kids to show what they can do.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 13th, 2009
2:49 pm

Russian — I’ve always felt that Sterling wasn’t given a “fair” chance. Each of his stints have been brief, and have been with him in the wrong role. He’s not a 3rd or 4th line player, but he’s played there due to depth at LW (Kovalchuk and Kozlov are far superior). So unless he plays RW (he wasn’t good there), he plays defensive lines or the grinding/energy line that gets 8 minutes per game.

In my opinion the best way to see if he’s able to play is to put him on a top line. At this point it doesn’t hurt the team (if Kovalchuk is down, no matter who you replace him with it’ll be a step down), and it gives him the minutes he deserves to prove his worth at this level. If he fails, he has been given a FAIR shot. If he succeeds, he’s proven to everyone he deserves playing time in Atlanta, or possibly in another team in the league.

Basically, I think it doesn’t hurt to try to bring up a young player at this point, and if Kovalchuk is injured it’s the best opportunity to give Sterling his shot…finally. I have no problem seeing Lavallee or Holzapfel or Machacek. I don’t think Stuart or Lavallee are 2nd line potential wings, so I wouldn’t waste time with them there. But, with a scoring RW they would be good compliments, so it depends on their line really.

Tony C.

March 13th, 2009
3:02 pm

I wouldn’t mind seeing Sterling play, and the obvious slot is to put him opposite Little. Why not? As was pointed out above, He [Sterling] has never really been given a shot at a “scoring line” role except for on his backhand for the 1st time in his life! Let’s just see if he has the moves to make it as an NHL-level LW. Why not? They re-signed the guy for like 3+ years this past summer. He’s been “wating in the wings” for Slava to move on or retire, clearly the organization’s been grooming him for the #2 LW role. Let’s see if he can make it happen in a “fair shot” scenario-RUSSIAN; I appreciate your point that he’s been given opportunities, but they haven’t really been opportunities where Sterling was set up for success.

Nikita

March 13th, 2009
3:04 pm

I’d love to see Holzapfel, but I think the Wolves need him. And I think that experience on a playoff-bound AHL team will serve him well in comparison to serving as roster fodder for the NHL. Besides which, I bet he’ll be here next fall anyway.

Brendan

March 13th, 2009
3:28 pm

Ranallo, I wonder why Waddell hasn’t made this kind of change? He’s the GM, after all. It’s clearly within his scope to hire/fire scouts, or advisors, as he sees fit. Yet, Dan Marr stays. Who knows? Maybe it’s Mahavolich who has caused the drafting to improve? And, to be clear, I do credit the organization with BETTER drafting over the last four to five years then the initial four to five years.

And, I AGREEEEE with you about a DRAFT being something that changes from year to year, in terms of its quality. The Draft Year 1999 … was a little “light.” That’s not to say decent players weren’t drafted that year. Obviously, some were. But compare 1999 to 1998 … or 1999 to 2008. Some years are DEEPER with talent that others.

But generally-speaking, I’d have to be pretty UNDERWHELMED by what I saw on that board, at pick #8, not to select someone. I’ll tell you the part of the draft where I really advocate moving back. It’s pick #19 or thereabouts. If some team is sitting at #24 or #25, and also owns pick #34 or thereabouts, I’m probably going to accept their offer to swap draft positions. Picking at #24 and #34 is probably better than picking at #19 and #49. Point of fact, you’d be picking at 24th, 34th and 49th. Knowing that I’d just picked up a high-end 2nd rounder, I might then try to move my pick #49 for some RW, who is an RFA, who I think can help us out immediately.

Brendan

March 13th, 2009
3:35 pm

I agree with Ranallo, here. Why not give Sterling a “fair opportunity” this time? Atlanta really doesn’t have anything to lose. Most of their opposition, from this point forward, is playoff-bound. What BETTER WAY to find out if Sterling is NHL-ready is there? Play him! If he falters, you have your answer. But let him play 17 and a half minutes per game.

Dwayne

March 13th, 2009
4:58 pm

Any word on Kovy? What if Sterling looks good on either of the 2 top lines?

Christy

March 13th, 2009
8:54 pm

Good evening All.
No real opinion on Sterling one way or another – as in I’m fine if he’s called up and fine if he’s not.

But, Devil’s Advocate…. Considering that that Sterling has been up in Chicago for a couple of seasons, including what 2 or 3 under Anderson – how did he not get a fair chance or evaluation of his skills by the current coach? Granted, not with the same level of talent surrounding him – i.e. no Kovy to feed off of, but still…. I would submit that while not ideal, he has received at least a fair chance at displaying his skill.

In recent weeks Anderson opted to bring up, among forwards, Crabb, then Stuart, then Motzko and then Lavallee instead of Sterling. Could we not infer then that Anderson feels he has already evaluated Sterling’s talent and found it wanting, at least for the needs of his system at the NHL level? Sterling was up early in the season and I think he failed to seize the opportunity to stick with the team. Ditto with Crabb to an extent, and Motzko – as compared to Stuart who in his 1st game and playing on the 3rd line, if memory serves, made an indelible mark via his role on the PK.

Tony C.

March 13th, 2009
9:02 pm

Dwayne: then it breeds competition within the “top 6″ spots next year-somebody’s going to go wanting for ice-time; be it Sterling, Kozlov, Peverly, White, Machchek-whomever. I think it’s a “good” problem to have.

Personally, I’m loathe to trade Sterling-mostly because I’ve never really seen his game @ the NHL level. He certainly looks great in the Wolves games I’ve seen, and seeing Little’s advancement, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because of the logjam at “skill” LW on our NHL roster.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 13th, 2009
9:28 pm

Christy — Sterling is an undersized scorer. Lavallee, Crabb and Stuart are defensive minded forwards, perfectly suited to the lower lines of this team. They are “plumbers”, Sterling is not. Motzko also brings size and versatility to the role, with more of a scoring touch than the other three. The only roles, prior to this Saturday’s game, have been for lower line wings. Sterling doesn’t fit such a role.

To my understanding he plays as a top line forward in Chicago, and on the Powerplay. In Atlanta he played on his off-wing for a few games (he didn’t adjust well to a position he hadn’t played since he was a youth, and admitted to this), then he played a few games of 4th line minutes. This season he made the team out of training camp only to be a healthy scratch due to there being no position for him to play, he only played in three games. He was sent down after playing only 3 games, because it was serving no purpose having him sitting in the press box waiting for someone to be injured in order for him to have playing time (per Waddell). In those games he averaged 11 minutes of ice time, and scored one goal. He has 16 games total of NHL experience. In my opinion that’s not a fair shot.

Anyways, scorers should play with other scorers. His role for this team would only be useful on the top 2 LWs, if he were to succeed. 8 minutes a game with the Greek God line or 15 minutes a game with the shut down line (Reasoner’s) will not showcase his ability, and is not the role he fills.

Throughout this season Kozlov and Kovalchuk have remained relatively healthy, so there was never a spot for him. Now, according to TSN, Kovalchuk will be out for Saturday’s game…we’ll see what coach decides to do, but I don’t consider his not calling up Sterling as proof of anything. I’d LIKE to see Sterling get a fair shot (20 games as a top line LW), but that means Kovalchuk or Kozlov are either not playing or out of position. If Sterling flops that’s fine, but at least his chance was a fair one. Up to now, it hasn’t been, unlike the chances Crabb and Stuart have been given (and to a much lesser extent, Lavallee).

Brendan

March 14th, 2009
12:24 am

Christy, I see your point about Anderson knowing the player whom he’s coached for so long. I respect that point. But not even Anderson can know, definitively, what Sterling can do at the NHL level until he’s played 20-25 games, in his role as a “top line scorer,” logging 18-20 minutes per game. Generally-speaking, the top two lines are your “skilled positions.” The third line is a checking line, designed to shut down the opposition and generate energy, sometimes by fighting. The fourth line does the plumber’s work, too. It’s their job to try and match up against the other team’s latter lines, win puck battles in the corner boards, and try to generate penalties. If the 4th line causes the PP unit to appear, it’s done its job. But it’s not where a “finesse goal scorer” ought to find a home. Now, the Thrashers are some what stocked at the LW position, on its top two lines.

But, uhh … consider this for a moment: Nobody knows, FOR SURE, just YET, that either Kozlov or Kovalchuk will be Thrashers beyond the year 2010. Both Kovy and Kozzie will be UNRESTRICTED free agents in 2010. Both players will be “eligible” for PROACTIVE contract renewals on July 1, 2009. Let’s say, Kovalchuk re-signs this July, 2009. But Kozlov isn’t re-signed. Or vice versa. Well, then Sterling may yet get his chance to fulfill “his role” as a 2nd line LW for this roster.

Christy, as always, it’s great to see you posting again. Post more often.

Christy

March 14th, 2009
7:56 am

Morning all. Ranallo – don’t disagree. Agree with most of your points. As I mentioned, Devil’s Advcocate. That being said, there’s always a “but” to be found…Not sure if I’m going to be able to phrase this the way I intend to but, we’ll give it a go.

I would have thought that given Anderson’s ideal of having everyone participate in the scoring and developing nearly the entire team into a scoring minded group, that he would like to have another scoring forward up here.
If the counter is that Sterling is not defensive-minded enough, then we can consider that Anderson tried and failed to teach him that aspect and recognizes that “failure” and Sterling won’t be making the Atlanta club because that is a requirement for playing at this level.
If the idea is that he can only play left-wing, it doesn’t say much for his versatility on a team that for good or ill needs to be a bit more dynamic in nature.

Brendan – if Sterling is the replacement for either Russian K, then I may consider going straight to St. Jude’s this weekend and lighting a candle to ask for patience and understanding and the ability to cope with years more of disappointment, because I definitely don’t see Sterling as having the talent or the smarts of either Kovy or Kozzie.

Either way, with Kovy down this Saturday, we need a scoring LW, and it will be Sterling’s “chance to shine” if he gets the call up. If he doesn’t then that too is telling.

By the way – often, I don’t post because I don’t want to be redundant. No point in re-stating what others have said more effectively. But I’m always here, reading and learning and laughing.

Okay – off to start my day.

Brendan

March 14th, 2009
11:47 am

Christy, I’ve been lighting candles for this team since 2002. Maybe I’ll join you at St. Jude’s this weekend. In my view, things are going to get better. By lottery drafts, by waiver claims, maybe by the sheer BLUNDERS of other GM’s, some trickle down will come our way.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 14th, 2009
1:16 pm

Christy — I understand your point too, and definitely can’t disagree with it. I merely think that Sterling needs time to prove if he can or cannot make it at the NHL level. Perhaps he’s learned how to play RW since his 2007 appearance. Perhaps he’s better defensively than I give him credit for. Or, perhaps he’s just not good enough to make it.

Either way, it would serve the team best if they found out as soon as possible, instead of keeping him around just to tear up the AHL.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 14th, 2009
2:20 pm

By the way, TSN says Sterling has been called up.

Thrashers27

March 14th, 2009
2:54 pm

Where do you see that, Ranallo? I can’t find it anywhere.

Thrashers27

March 14th, 2009
3:00 pm

Ah, I see it on atlantathrashers.com now. Good luck, Brett!

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 14th, 2009
3:31 pm

I saw it in the transactions section of TSN. I hope Sterling can make an immediate impact, but I’ll be completely fine with a + night for his line with good scoring opportunities.

Brendan

March 14th, 2009
6:51 pm

Kozlov scored his 19th. It’s 1-0, after one period. Pretty decent road period by Atlanta. If Atlanta wins this game, it’ll be its 5th in-a-row. And you know what that means?

Well, don’t you?

What? You don’t?! You don’t know what that means?

It means Atlanta isn’t really the 28th place team in the NHL … anymore. It’d be the 27th place team. And, if you ask Don Waddell or his paid henchman, Darren Eliot, it’d be mean the Thrashers are “close, real close” … to avoiding the lottery draft.

Also, it means Waddell can claim that he’s iced a good team. For him, five straight wins is his definition of a ‘good team.’ It would be the Thrashers second such streak of the year. Does ANYONE realize it’s an 82-game schedule? And that, even the Islanders had a 4-0-1 streak, at the end of January/early February. Perhaps these are ‘lost subtleties.’ By the way, this is also an era of ’salary cap.’ Ya know, where the league ‘claims’ to have fixed the inequities that exist among the 30 markets. So, in their theory of things, every team should be about 35-35-12 on the year. And the eight playoff spots determined by the ‘tie-breaker procedure.’ Heavy sigh.

stendec

March 14th, 2009
8:00 pm

Damn it to Hell! I knew the true Kari Letemin would eventually resurface. A 1-0 lead deteriorates into a 3-1 deficit thanks to three marshmallow whiff jobs that my grandma could have stopped. Way to go you untalented Finn piece of crap! No excuse for that shet. The feel-good winning streak is down the damn toilet! Against a bunch of wimps who have packed it in this season. At least LaLa Land Boy is back. Whoop-de-do. Absolutely pathetic! Damn. Just…damn!